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As limn volumes obverse

Question: Must we automatically despise people for the wrongs they do? (You must, as always, supply your own value for 'wrongs'.)

On a related note, in referring to my own acts, I can no longer think of 'right' and 'wrong': only 'correct' and 'incorrect'. I find this makes useful contemplation much easier.

Further: people do like to say that if you're not supposed to do something, this makes it more attractive. But that is only true when there is some sort of circumscription - some proscription - for you to kick across. For example: no non-religious person is truly capable of blasphemy - and blasphemy, for a non-religious person, holds zero allure. Myself, I will not wear or use any religious symbol. I just will not. First, because they are not meaningful to me. Second, because offending against orthodoxy would itself be meaningless for me - it would be a completely pointless expression of... what? Poor manners? Thirdly, there can be no thrill in it. Nothing I could do with a crucifix could be anything other than... lame, and insincere.

I saw a young man in town today with 'Day of the Dead' iconography tattooed up his arms. Unwise of me perhaps to adjudge him un-Mexican in the extreme, based only on his appearance, but he did look terribly English, and those sugar skulls are excessively fashionable these days. I had to wonder whether he'd chosen the device for spiritual (anthropological?) reasons, or just because it looked nice. We have a phrase for that nowadays - 'cultural appropriation'. Fair enough. Personally I don't want to cluelessly ape the symbols of a culture I have not experienced. But then again, what cultural devices have I, that could be appropriated by others? It's disturbing to realise that you have nothing of the kind - no sacrilege is possible, no defilement.

No line there for another to cross, and no currency in crossing another's. Where, then, does desire originate? And how can I feel in the presence of another's trespass?

How very curious it is: with very few exceptions, the figures who interest me the most tend to be trespassers*. This, despite my own complete and utter harmlessness. I can even be somewhat clairvoyant here: being drawn to persons who appear fairly socially acceptable - admirable, even - at first scrutiny, but whose inner life is later revealed to plumb depths that would enrage, disgust or shock most nice folks. It should be pretty clear to you that I am not most nice folks. Well, I'm nice. But... I can condemn an act, but find it very hard indeed to condemn a whole human being.

Context-free, is what I often am. I have no home-context in which to situate my reckonings - no ground zero. In all things I'm a pair of scales that insists on balancing. The Devil's Advocate - or just on the fence? Except... there is no fence!

Often we 'go with the majority' rather than following Instinct. Context-free: at this point in the Lifelong Trek I don't find it helpful or comfortable to judge my actions based on how many people agree with me or would do the same as me - or how many would condemn me. Correct and incorrect are not to be arbitrated by others. Context-free.

Moral questions - ack. I must abstain from parsing them, being unequipped to do so. My only correct response to anything is to strive to be sincere and to be self-defined. I forget this occasionally, and want others' approval, forgetting that perhaps the onus is just as much on them to earn mine.


Today in the bookshop we were presented with a slim volume of verse (listen to me, 'a slim volume of verse'... stock phrases au-go-go!!) - translated from the Japanese, into German. I once passed a GCSE in German (I got a 'B') which enables me to pronounce it beautifully, whilst understanding something in the order of every ninth word. I stood there, making the correct mouth-noises, whilst my two friends - the one my Anglo-Saxonist colleague, the other our pop-culture-expert regular - tilted at translation, indulging in flights of lateral guesswork. If I do say so myself, it sounded very well, my recitation; but other than divining the poet's interest in cranes and cherry-blossom (to which the pen-and-ink illustrations conspired to clue us in), the meaning remained elusive. I rather prefer it that way, for once in my life.


Coda: I voted today, in the local elections; and the only honest (...honest!) choice was... the Green Party. I can't imagine they'll get in, despite my (...ha!) illustrious patronage. Once again I prove HARMLESS, and leave no mark behind me.


[*Post-scriptum: Case in point: I posted this on Facebook earlier:

"Did ya ever get the paranoid feeling that Salvador Dalí was following you...? I've been reading his novel, 'Hidden Faces' (no, no, his navel! His Magnificent Octopus! ...Baldrick must've been a surrealist!) and his 'Secret Life of Salvador Dalí'. The navel-octopus is pretty good; the 'Secret Life' (an autobiog - an autofiction?) is where it's at, though - it's just as you'd imagine it would be, only more coherent/clever/readable. Anyway, I turned up to the bookshop today to be confronted with the sight of Himself staring out from the cover of some exhibition catalogue, whilst beside it sat a general book on surrealism. Then some donations came in - a book about Ms. Gala's progress through the ranks (Eluard, Ernst, Dalí), and a huge book of colour reproductions of Dalí paintings. I suggest: The man loved notice so much he can still feel us looking at him! Even posthumously, he queues up to be admired, drawn to where the eyes are! May madness: mind your shadow, and don't leave your watch on the windowsill in the sun. :-)"

As Max Bialystock said, 'They find me... how do they find me?!' Well... sometimes, Clive, I find them.]


( 5 confidences — Confide in me... )
May. 3rd, 2013 01:46 am (UTC)
It took me a minute, but once I got it the title of this post gave me a giggle.

I also like the phrase 'tilting at translation.' I did a fair amount of that when I was in Germany recently, and it was fun in all situations except those in which it was crucial to know what I was reading. ;)
May. 3rd, 2013 07:34 pm (UTC)
I have to admit that I quite preened my whiskers when I came up with that one. >.< Wordplay is utter catnip!

German is deceptive that way isn't it - it's so (apparently) closely-related to English that you kind of expect you'll get the gist of it easily... and then you don't. XD
May. 10th, 2013 03:07 am (UTC)
I've never been on board with the whole "cultural appropriation" thing. I was trained to do History, and I still do think of the whole world and pretty much everything in the last six or seven thousand years to be open to inspection and to use in bricolage. I wear a keffiyeh, or Oxbridge college ties, or a fez. I think of everything out there as available to be re-purposed into new styles. And as a secular, educated Westerner, I can't work up any feeling that my own native culture is being violated when I see things like tribesmen in Xinjiang wearing American cowboy hats or American flag t-shirts. Style and accessories are for everyone, and can be taken from anywhere.
May. 12th, 2013 06:54 pm (UTC)
It is absolutely true that there'd be no progress if one culture didn't borrow-or-steal from another. (No fellow-feeling or common ground, either, I suspect!) And that's a good point about the cowboy hat! The issue seems to arise when people borrow-or-steal thoughtlessly - you can see how it would be frustrating as, say, a person from a culture that already feels oppressed/has a difficult colonial history, to find some gormless so-and-so turning your most sacred symbols into a mere point of fashion or decorative trope. But that doesn't mean it's not possible to borrow-or-steal with respect and genuine curiosity.

As for me, I'm subject to this... don't know what to call it... relentless, ungovernable need to *feel sincere*?! (That's not to say I think others are insincere. The criteria do not apply outside of me.) I'm bad at fashion because I have to feel that what I wear is 'meaningful' to me personally (or if not that, acceptably neutral). I can't feel right if I have 'fakeness' (whatever that means!) on my person. Where the 'meaning' (if present) - the genuineness - comes from is... mysterious. I feel keenly the lack of a 'native culture', so much so that I've had to (oh dear!) create one. Rather than feeling British, the internal-self-me is (quite contentedly) always something else, a stranger everywhere. I like to say that I speak English like a foreigner. :-D

Self-referential blithering ENDS! ;-)
May. 12th, 2013 11:54 pm (UTC)
I always tell people that since I speak English as a first language and refuse to wear Ridiculous Headgear, I can never be a Foreigner.

I'm not sure what culture I feel at home in, but it must be one that has hot dogs with chili and lots of all-night diners.
( 5 confidences — Confide in me... )

Eavesdrop, snoop, and sigh with yearning...

This journal is not a private diary, it is more like an occasional, imaginary column. Therefore, much of it is on public display. However, if you want to read my occasional attempts at creative writing, my Caution Elf tells me I should only show that stuff to my friends. You know what to do. :-)

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